Gnuru.org
Productive Linux


Subscribe

 Subscribe via Feedburner in a reader

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Login
Login:
Password:



Don't have an account?
Sign up to Gnuru.org
Forgot your password?

I hate Skype. So Should You.
15 October 2008 @ 14:22 BST
by Paul

Skype is a predatory virus that should be banned from your computer.

But don't take my word for it. Look at the facts. Skype can be and has been hacked. This is exactly what you'd expect from proprietary software and why using it should make you sick to your stomach.

When you run Skype you don't know what it is doing and why. You don't know why, for example, your load (as reported by top) has jumped from under 0.5 to over 3.4. You don't know why you have a sudden jump in network activity. You're unsure as to what data exactly Skype is sending out.

Linux Journal has suggested that Skype should be open-sourced. That would certainly fix most, if not all, of the problems.

However, that article doesn't deal with the one main reason to hate Skype. That is that eBay, the owners of Skype, think Skype is a business, when it plainly isn't. Added to this is eBay's hubris in thinking they could monetise something that simply couldn't pay its way.

I know what you're thinking: that Skype makes money from SkypeIn and SkypeOut. It is easy to show that it doesn't. How many people do you know who use Skype? How many of those have ever paid a penny to Skype? I can count one and that person hasn't spent more than an equivalent of two reams of printer paper, and that over a period of three years.

This is clearly no way to make money. As a business Skype is a horrible failure.

eBay has a way out of this mess. It can admit that the acquisition of Skype was a mistake and that there never was any prospect of making money from it. They can reclaim the moral high-ground by turning over the code to the community, so releasing it under an appropriate open source licence, preferably the GPL.

eBay could then reclaim some kudos as an Internet innovator and benefit the world infinitely. They might even stumble across a way to make some return on their disastrous investment in Skype. It couldn't possibly be worse for them than it is now.

UPDATE:Someone pulled me up for not explaining exactly why Skype is not a money making proposition. Let's look at this a little more deeply. eBay's financial information can be found here. The first thing to notice is that eBay doesn't report profits for its individual businesses separately. Why is a mystery, as you would have thought that the eBay marketplace, PayPal and Skype are each distinct and separate businesses. It's also clear how the marketplace and PayPal make money - they skim a small fee from every transaction. Not so Skype. Skype is mainly free. eBay only makes money from Skype-to-non-Skype voice calls. As more and more people use VoIP and/or Skype this market shrinks. This means that Skype is a long-term no-hoper. Not only that, but Skype can't raise prices because there are plenty of other free competitors. Customers will not go from free to pay-for when there is a decent free product available. As to actual figures, because eBay obfuscates it's hard to tell, but according to the most recent quarterly report, users spend on average 40c per quarter. Note this is gross revenue, not profit. However, the vast majority of Skype users pay nothing. Most of the revenue comes from a tiny proportion of users. When they see the light, that revenue will dry up. How much Skype actually loses will remain a mystery until eBay comes clean. But all that hosting and bandwidth isn't free, so that money is unlikely to be pocket change. Anyone like to make a guess?




Broadly I agree with your contention that Skype cannot be trusted. And broadly, as an ex-employee, my personal feeling is that I also do not respect eBay or their business practices.

However, I have paid a considerable amount to use Skype. I've been a Skype user for around 4 or 5 years I guess - well before the eBay buy out. My family lives several thousand miles away in another country. They aren't Skype users, but so far SkypeOut is the cheapest way I have found of speaking with them on the telephone. My best friend also lives in another European country - one which is not included in my monthly "all you can eat" mobile phone tariff. I also find SkypeOut a convenient way to call him when I need to have a longer conversation.

I'd be very open to using another service, that was open source, that provided calls to landlines and mobiles at the same cheap rate as SkypeOut. Such a service probably exists, I just don't happen to know about it. Please educate me.


Posted by PhillC on 2008-10-15 23:56:21.

Skype is great when free. Of course i don't pay when to use skype. But, when i will eventually own a home. I'll see if eliminating the phone bill, or replacing it with something cheaper would be great. On the other hand. The reason for skype to become OSS is a good one. The one where skype costs money, doesn't really hold so much validity to why skype should be OSS. There's not going to be free skype to non-skype calls in the future.


Posted by Shamil on 2008-10-16 03:46:54.

Good points to ponder upon. But skype is the only service that offers video calling in Linux. So when you want to make a video call with someone who does not know Linux, you are left with only Skype. Skype should be open sourced, I agree. Skype is one of the very few programs that works seamlessly across all three major OS platforms, that's why I like skype.


Posted by Sid on 2008-10-16 04:36:06.

It is bad that skype is proprietary software, but I think they make enough money from it. Just think, one can constantly see about 11 million people online using it all the day. Let's say about 5% of them added to their account $10. How much is that? That's $5500000 in a moment.

Sid, there are open source VoIP clients that support video calling in Linux. One of them is ekiga. http://www.gnomemeeting.org/


Posted by tallman on 2008-10-16 07:42:33.

Bit of a rant if you ask me. Nothing at all wrong or immoral about using skype to chat to people over the net, nothing at all...


Posted by Daniel Harvison on 2008-10-16 10:04:53.

"I know what you're thinking: that Skype makes money from SkypeIn and SkypeOut. It is easy to show that it doesn't. How many people do you know who use Skype? How many of those have ever paid a penny to Skype? I can count one and that person hasn't spent more than an equivalent of two reams of printer paper, and that over a period of three years."

There are millions of Skype users out there who haven’t paid us a penny, but we’re cool with that :)

Skype reported $143 million US in revenue for the third quarter of 2008, and contributes about 10% of eBay’s total revenue.

Keith Teare has uploaded the summary slides from eBay’s presentation yesterday which contain some more details.


Posted by Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) on 2008-10-16 12:27:54.

Hello Peter Parkes,

Skype reported $143 million US in revenue for the third quarter of 2008, and contributes about 10% of eBay's total revenue.

How much of that goes to the bottom line and is profit rather than revenue? And why won't eBay tell us? Is it because Skype is losing money and the stockholders wouldn't like it if they found out?


Posted by paul1 on 2008-10-16 17:03:28.

Hey. The problems with the code are just part of the risk. The apologistic comments above, and even the main article, miss the lock-in that comes from the insecure, proprietary protocol that it uses.

There are several other services which offer SIP-based calls *and* even let you (for a fee) call out to POTS.


Posted by Puppesurferen on 2008-10-21 12:52:14.

I think many people would embrace it more if it were OSS. Is it possible the load is jumping because your client is handling other peoples calls?

http://www.skype.com/help/guides/p2pexplained/


Posted by Luke on 2008-10-21 14:42:20.

PhilC wrote: I'd be very open to using another service, that was open source, that provided calls to landlines and mobiles at the same cheap rate as SkypeOut. Such a service probably exists, I just don't happen to know about it. Please educate me. Check something like jajah.com it's mostly cheaper and you can use it with landline/mobile phones etc.


Posted by Ape on 2008-10-21 15:19:10.

I know two people who paid for Skype and are happy about it.

I do not want to be impolite but maybe you should go out sometimes, and look after some friends to talk to (And not necessary on Skype) ?


Posted by Autumnlover on 2008-10-21 19:41:37.
Comments disabled